FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Forsyth County Sheriff Duane Piper went before the Board of Commissioners May 7 to request that $3.7 million of the $5 million slashed from his budget last year at the request of then-sheriff Ted Paxton be returned.
The commissioners voted 5-0 to grant the request.
Within weeks of his loss to Piper in last year’s election, Paxton asked commissioners to reduce the sheriff’s office budget by $5,014,000 in 2013.
Many saw that request as vindictive on Paxton’s part. In a letter to county Chief Financial Officer David Gruen, Paxton wrote:
“After considering the recent election results, it is my recommendation and desire that the 2013 budget for the sheriff’s office be reduced by $5,014,000. The voters of the county have voted for a candidate who campaigned on the promise of cutting the sheriff’s office budget by $5,000,000.”
The board agreed, but placed the money in a special line-item account exclusively for the new sheriff and required that he come before them to request that it be returned if needed.
In asking for most of the money back, Piper said budget cuts included all overtime and out-of-county inmate housing. He added that removing the money in bulk had destroyed every line item.
“The way it was taken out was the line items were left intact, but the lump sum was taken out, so the line items don’t mean anything,” he said. “From day one, we’ve had to shift the line items to cover that money. The whole budget was worthless. It wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.”
Commissioner Todd Levent took issue with Piper.
“I don’t think it’s fair that you keep saying they did something to you,” Levent said, referring to the budget cuts asked for by Paxton. “I never thought you could cut $5 million. I knew this was going to mess up your budget. I knew this was going to cause some stress.”